Ethiopian Airlines 737 crash discussion

  • #1
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All 157 people on board an Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed soon after taking off from Addis Ababa have been killed, the airline said on Sunday morning.

The plane, en route to Nairobi, Kenya, lost contact at 8:44 a.m. local time, six minutes after taking off from Bole International Airport in the Ethiopian capital.
https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/10/africa/ethiopia-airline-crash-nairobi-intl/index.html

There is now a lot of speculation about whether something is seriously wrong with the 737 MAX.
https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/10/africa/ethiopian-airlines-crash-boeing-max-8-intl/index.html
 

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  • #2
Wrichik Basu
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Boeing planes seem to be seriously flawed. It's not the first time a Boeing has crashed. In past, a number of Boeing flights of different models have crashed unexpectedly.
 
  • #3
fresh_42
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That was my first thought, too. And I remember the previous discussion about it (JT 610) when I said, that the 737 is an old work horse and someone clarified, that they actually made many technical upgrades on the MAX version so it can barely be called old. It might well be the case that they ran through their development too fast, driven by the same thought as mine "old work horse - what can go wrong" and the pressure from the A 320-Neo competition.

Whatever they had done, they should have relied more on the old components rather than renewing them IMO. The pattern is effectively 7 years old, so it still counts as new.
 
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  • #4
Dr Transport
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As a former Boeing employee (you'll see that I didn't say loyal, but that is another story) a vast number of the crashes of Boeing 737's are due to faulty maintenance. This becomes an issue outside of the US where the FAA has no jurisdiction. Foreign carriers tend not to perform the scheduled maintenance because they don't have the available assets, i.e. cash and qualified mechanics.

Also, statistically, think about it. if I remember correctly, the 737 model line has the most number of planes flying on the planet. Why do we see more 737 crashes than others, I don't know why.
 
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  • #5
fresh_42
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Also, statistically, think about it. if I remember correctly, the 737 model line has the most number of planes flying on the planet. Why do we see more 737 crashes than others, I don't know why.
See my previous post #3. It is factually a new pattern. This doesn't contradict what you have said. On the opposite, the new pattern most likely requires new maintenance rules as well, and many airlines may not have correctly adjusted them, especially in some parts of the world. IIRC especially the incident with JT 610 required a change for the pilots in response to certain circumstances! So the question will be: have they all enjoyed this additional management training? I have my doubts.
 
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  • #6
Dr Transport
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Upon looking at the article that Greg linked to, there was a temporary grounding in 2017 due to engine issues. That isn't Boeing, I think all the 737 line runs GE engines, that's where I'd start looking.

I agree with @fresh_42 , it is essentially a new line, updated air-frame with new avionics.
 
  • #8
Vanadium 50
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Boeing planes seem to be seriously flawed. It's not the first time a Boeing has crashed.

With all due respect, that's a terrible argument.
Airbus planes seem to be seriously flawed. It's not the first time an Airbus has crashed.
Embraer planes seem to be seriously flawed. It's not the first time an Embrair has crashed.
Tupolev planes seem to be seriously flawed. It's not the first time a Tupolev has crashed.
 
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  • #9
Dr Transport
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  • #10
fresh_42
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With all due respect, that's a terrible argument.
Airbus planes seem to be seriously flawed. It's not the first time an Airbus has crashed.
Embraer planes seem to be seriously flawed. It's not the first time an Embrair has crashed.
Tupolev planes seem to be seriously flawed. It's not the first time a Tupolev has crashed.
A bit short, your list: Lockheed, Ilyushin, Antonow, McDonald Douglas, Bombardier, Cessna, ... , and now for the helicopters ... :wink:
 
  • #11
fresh_42
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It must be allowed to ask: Why Delta, KLM or United don't have issues?
 
  • #12
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Live updates here
https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/ethiopian-airlines-plane-crash/index.html

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told reporters at a press conference that the pilot of flight ET 302 that crashed Sunday morning had reported technical difficulties and asked for clearance to return to Addis Ababa.

He was given clearance to turn back, according to Mr. GebreMariam, citing the Air Traffic Controllers record.

The senior Ethiopian Airlines pilot had flown more than 8,000 hours. He had an “excellent flying record,” according to the CEO.

A routine maintenance check didn't reveal any problems, he said. GebreMariam said they have not yet determined the cause of the crash.
 
  • #13
Dr Transport
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It must be allowed to ask: Why Delta, KLM or United don't have issues?

They are carriers, not manufacturers, with excellent maintenance records.
 
  • #14
fresh_42
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They are carriers, not manufacturers, with excellent maintenance records.
... and all operate the 737-800. Most of European carriers have fleets of several manufacturers, mainly Boeing and Airbus. They also have well trained pilots which are up to date to latest changes, and I assume the same is right for US carriers, even though they might operate less Airbusses. Nevertheless, maintenance and training are essential in my opinion. Incidents like AWE 1549, QF 32, or AF 66 show that well trained pilots can deal with technical failures; and that modern aircrafts can cope with many technical failures, too. It wasn't only Sullenberger, it was also a reliable aircraft.

History shows, that crashes are usually due to quite a few causes which all have to come together to make a crash happen. It is for a reason that studies take so long until they are published.
 
  • #15
Dr Transport
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... and all operate the 737-800. Most of European carriers have fleets of several manufacturers, mainly Boeing and Airbus. They also have well trained pilots which are up to date to latest changes, and I assume the same is right for US carriers, even though they might operate less Airbusses. Nevertheless, maintenance and training are essential in my opinion. Incidents like AWE 1549, QF 32, or AF 66 show that well trained pilots can deal with technical failures; and that modern aircrafts can cope with many technical failures, too. It wasn't only Sullenberger, it was also a reliable aircraft.

History shows, that crashes are usually due to quite a few causes which all have to come together to make a crash happen. It is for a reason that studies take so long until they are published.


See my previous post (#4) The crashes of late have been with aircraft from non-first world countries, not what I'd call a major carrier. You say they operate 737's, sure, but they have a better maintenance record and operate under a different set of rules. Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance, that's what I been saying since thread one.
 
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  • #16
Klystron
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While my direct experience in flight safety research is too dated to be relevant to the new Boeing 737 models, an old discussion deserves to be revisited. Throughout my career serious safety concerns about 'fly by wire' aircraft control were raised not only by pilots but by engineers and scientists in a variety of fields but particularly avionics control systems, risk management and crew factor research, not to mention maintenance experts. If the MCAS (see OP links) becomes implicated in this second 737 event, a review of basic concepts seems warranted from engine redesign where fuel costs remain a paramount factor to updated crew training procedures.

Not suggesting nor advocating return to 'stick and rudder seat-of-the-pants' flight regimes, but an unbiased review of manufacturers decision making particularly when adopting new technology, scheduling maintenance, and developing training models.
 
  • #17
256bits
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From the link in the opening post
"As it is a fresh incident, we have not been able to determine the cause. As I said, it is a brand new airplane with no technical remarks, flown by a senior pilot and there is no cause that we can attribute at this time."
"The routine maintenance check didn't reveal any problems," GebreMariam added
Ethiopian Airlines has a reputation of being one of the best airlines in Africa. It has a good safety record and the newest fleet of planes on the continent
No details of the technical difficulties the pilot experienced, and for the subsequent crash have yet been released or determined.
As such no link with another flight that faced difficulties and crashed can be made.
 
  • #18
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but they have a better maintenance record and operate under a different set of rules. Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance, that's what I been saying since thread one.

Lion Air (the previous crash) was formerly banned from flying into EU airspace for that reason.
 
  • #19
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Lion Air (the previous crash) was formerly banned from flying into EU airspace for that reason.

I don't think I have ever seen Ethiopian Air flying outside of Africa, same reason. This was a fairly new plane, many of the air-frames in use in the third world are bought from other air carriers after they deem they have exceeded their useful lifespan.
 
  • #20
fresh_42
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I don't think I have ever seen Ethiopian Air flying outside of Africa, same reason.
Ethiopian is a member of the star alliance and has a good reputation with a modern fleet. So it's not one of the usual suspects.
 
  • #21
russ_watters
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With all due respect, that's a terrible argument.
Airbus planes seem to be seriously flawed. It's not the first time an Airbus has crashed.
Embraer planes seem to be seriously flawed. It's not the first time an Embrair has crashed.
Tupolev planes seem to be seriously flawed. It's not the first time a Tupolev has crashed.
Well, maybe that last one...
 
  • #22
russ_watters
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It must be allowed to ask: Why Delta, KLM or United don't have issues?
Could you elaborate on what your point is please; KLM was involved in the worst aircraft accident in history.
 
  • #23
fresh_42
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Could you elaborate on what your point is please; KLM was involved in the worst aircraft accident in history.
Yes, and it was mainly a human error by the then inexperienced pilot, combined with bad crew management plus language issues.

I have looked up which airlines operate the in my eyes new pattern 800 MAX, and observed, that the carriers I mentioned haven't had issues with it - as of yet. My main concern regarding the last two accidents is, the first of which is almost certain and the second can only be speculated, that MCAS played a major role. This system requires a special handling different from previous 737 patterns in certain situations, and my personal suspicion is, that not all pilots on a 800 MAX have received an according training resp. might not be aware of the difficulties MCAS can make.

@256bits is right when he says
No details of the technical difficulties the pilot experienced, and for the subsequent crash have yet been released or determined.
As such no link with another flight that faced difficulties and crashed can be made.
so this is at best a working hypothesis based on the similar flight phase. The observation that the other 800 MAX clients didn't have those troubles however stands.
 
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  • #24
russ_watters
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I have looked up which airlines operate the in my eyes new pattern 800 MAX, and observed, that the carriers I mentioned haven't had issues with it - as of yet.
Ok, that make more sense - it sounded like a very broad statement at first read.
 
  • #25
russ_watters
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Here's the radar track for Ethiopian Airlines 302:
https://www.flightradar24.com/data/flights/et302

EthiopianAir.jpg


The flight is very short and it looks like some of the early data is interpolated and smoothed. It skips from 5:38:18 (0', 76kts) to 5:38:44 (8,025', 250kts). I don't think the plane was broadcasting altitude when on the ground, as the airport is at 7,660 feet elevation (Jakarta, on the other hand, is just above sea level). So that would make it 365 feet off the ground and struggling to maintain altitude, much less climb. The speed is also unusually high. High speed, not climbing...that could be an indication of the same problem as Lion Air.

Here's the profile from the previous day, showing it was gradually building speed to 400kts about 5 minutes into the flight (not sure if there is a way to zoom in...):
https://www.flightradar24.com/data/flights/et302#1fbe5988

ET302-DayBefore.jpg


And for reference, Lion Air 610:
https://www.flightradar24.com/data/pinned/jt610-1e5ff318#1e5ff318

LionAir.jpg
 

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  • #26
russ_watters
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If this eyewitness account is reliable, it points to an engine problem:
"I was in the mountain nearby when I saw the plane reach the mountain before turning around with a lot of smoke coming from the back and then crashed at this site," said the 25-year-old, who was collecting firewood on the mountain with three other locals when it happened.

"It crashed with a large boom. When it crashed luggage and clothes came burning down.

"Before it crashed the plane was swerving and dipping with a lot of smoke coming from the back and also making a very loud unpleasant sound before hitting the ground."
https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/ethiopian-airlines-plane-crash/index.html
 
  • #27
fresh_42
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If this eyewitness account is reliable, it points to an engine problem:
... which makes the problem even stranger and the question mark bigger.
 
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  • #28
fresh_42
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I'm not 100% sure, but if I remember correctly, then there have been similar reports on JT 610 at the beginning. Maybe witnesses tend to "see" engine fire in order to explain the rest of their experience. Especially the wording "from the back" is a bit mysterious, and a fire would very likely have been reported by the pilot.
 
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  • #29
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I'm not 100% sure, but if I remember correctly, then there have been similar reports on JT 610 at the beginning. Maybe witnesses tend to "see" engine fire in order to explain the rest of their experience. Especially the wording "from the back" is a bit mysterious, and a fire would very likely have been reported by the pilot.
Eyewitness reports are notoriously unreliable. Even if the person really did see something, it could have been a vapor trail, not smoke.
 
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  • #30
256bits
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Black box revovered.
https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/world/black-box-from-crashed-ethiopian-airlines-flight-recovered-state-tv/ar-BBUCDyA?li=AAggFp4&OCID=ansmsnnews11
 
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  • #31
russ_watters
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It looks like at this point most of the worlds' aviation authorities are banning use of the 737 Max, including the UK which forced some planes to turn around mid-flight.
https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/boeing-737-max-8-ethiopia-airlines-crash/index.html

This has the feel to me of a largely media driven hysteria. At this point there are some *potential* similarities and some *potential* differences with Lion Air 610, and the leading crash explanation for LA610 (we don't have a final report yet) is that the issue experienced should not be an emergency situation.

There's been a lot of crazy talk over at Airliners.net about the groundings and I had planned on avoiding bringing it here, but the idea of turning planes around in flight takes it to a new level I thought worth comment. Otherwise, I'd prefer to wait what should only be a few more days for more information before making further judgement.
 
  • #33
davenn
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This morning's news
Australia has banned all flights of this aircraft into and out of Australia
 
  • #34
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This has the feel to me of a largely media driven hysteria.

To me as well. In the other thread over in the Mech Eng forum, I linked to a Hacker News thread that contains some excerpts from reports filed by US pilots concerning incidents with the 737 MAX. The one key takeaway from all of them: all of those pilots were well prepared and were able to quickly take control of the aircraft when a problem surfaced, and all of those flights completed safely. So I don't see any reason to be turning planes around in flight.

Not to mention that the particular incidents in question all happened shortly after takeoff, so if a plane is in the middle of its flight at cruising altitude, it's already passed the danger regime anyway. Which makes it even less justified to turn it around mid-flight.
 
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